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Depression-era black and white photo of big crowd waiting in a soup line.
My parents grew up during the Great Depression. My dad grew up on a farm in Minnesota. My mom grew up in a shack outside of a small Wisconsin town on the Mississippi River. Throughout my life I heard the stories of the hardships they lived through during the depression.

With both my parents gone now I find myself longing for their stories of a very hard time. I do have some of their knowledge. I learned to can vegetables from my mom, a task that was a necessity when she was growing up. My grandma’s garden fed the family through the winter and spring until the next harvest.

I grew up on meals like beans on bread (navy beans and a very thin gravy that was provided by a ham bone), fried noodles, and what my mom called goulash (it was really just macaroni noodles and canned tomatoes). At the time I did not know that these were Depression dishes. I still remember my mom making noodles from eggs and flour and rolling them out on the kitchen table (I used to sneak them raw and eat them). These meals saved my bacon when I first got divorced and was struggling to keep my house.

While perusing Netflix I came across the Ken Burns film “The Dust Bowl.” Watching this film took me back to my parents and their stories of the depression. One quote a gentleman made in the movie made me realize how little we have progressed since those days:

If you weren’t on [WPA], if you had a job, [the WPA] was a boondoggle, just make work where men stood around leaning on shovels. If you were working for the WPA though, it put food in your family’s mouth.
How often have we heard the same things about welfare and food assistance? How many times have we heard tales of welfare queens, and people abusing the system to take our tax dollars – while these leaches just sit around and the checks just role in. We hear the same things about public servants. How many times have you heard jokes about city/county work crews having four men to supervise a one-man job? I am willing to bet you have heard these same things from people of all political stripes, from conservatives to liberals and everything in-between.

Hubert Humphrey once said:

The moral test of a government is how it treats those who are at the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick and the needy, and the handicapped.
We are choosing ships we don’t need over our troops financial security in their retirement. We are cutting back our postal service instead of expanding it. Instead of investing in our infrastructure we were given the sequester. Instead of expanding social programs we see those same programs being threatened with cuts.

We, as a nation, have failed this moral test.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 11:53 AM PDT.

Also republished by Kitchen Table Kibitzing and Badger State Progressive.

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